Arkena Outlines Plans to Grow European Footprint

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At the start of this year French group TDF Media Services gave itself a makeover, merging subsidiaries Cognacq-Jay Image, PSN, Qbrick and SmartJog under the Arkena brand.

Needless to say the rebrand is just the tip of a larger transformation undertaken over the past year by CEO Julien Seligmann in a bid to grow its business internationally.

"We've traditionally operated as specialised niche companies, all focused on very specific services and technologies across the media value chain," Seligmann explains. "By bringing them together under one brand we are better able to service clients, be faster to market, allocate more resources for innovation, take advantage of greater synergies, and have more impact on the market."

The digital services wing of one time state-owned transmission outfit TDF Group, (TéléDiffusion de France) Arkena embraces a wide portfolio of content management and delivery services from cloud media hosting to online video players.

It includes Canal+ playout centre Cognacq-Jay Image, Polish operator PSN (in which it has a majority stake), Spanish VOD media management service BeBanjo, Sweden's multi-screen cloud platform Qbrick, and SmartJog, an established CDN and operator of a business distributing digital cinema packages (DCPs) to 1700 cinemas.

"The target is be the trusted partner of European broadcasters and European telcos in managing their linear and nonlinear content to all screens," says Seligmann, who co-founded SmartJog in 2002, selling to TDF Group in 2006. "We have a longstanding relationship with many broadcasters, and we want to be their primary outsourcing partner when it comes to playout, headend services, VOD platforms, and for launching OTT services."

The majority of Arkena's approximately €100 million revenues are generated in France from clients including Canal+, Lagardère, and France Télévisions. It numbers some 1,500 clients with other notable accounts in SBS Discovery, Disney, Fox and Viacom. The wider TDF Group is active in DTT and 4G infrastructure and posted revenues of €1.3bn last year.

The market leader in France, Seligmann believes Arkena to be second to Ericsson in the Nordics and to SES Astra in Germany, behind Arqiva in the UK, with limited presence in other markets and chasing Akamai as a CDN.

"At a time when our competitors are global we need more traction in the market," he says. “Our challenge is to increase our market share internationally and to develop revenue outside of France, particularly in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia."

Arkena also mans a Los Angeles office where, via Smartjog, it has a longstanding pact with major studios to fulfill their international content management including licensing og TV, VOD, inflight, and theatrical properties.

"We have a significant business with telecom operators, for example in providing head-end services for IPTV plaforms," he says. At its Paris HQ, Arkena encodes, transcodes and distributes 2,500 linear TV channels. It also powers TV Everywhere initatives for telcos.

"A strong focus for us are OTT players where we provide integrated turnkey video platforms and CDN solutions," he says. HBO Nordic is the flagship client here, for which it installed an OVP and CDN providing a multi-screen service throughout Scandinavia.

"The main challenge all our clients face—broadcasters primarily but it applies to telcos and OTT players also—is quality of service," says Seligmann. "Audiences of linear TV are used to perfect quality and with content moving rapidly online the challenge is to achieve and maintain a QoS similar to broadcast."

While the acquisition trail has ended for the time being, Arkena can draw on the group's innovation department to bring new technologies to market.

Last year the team demonstrated a broadcast to mobile transmission of terrestrial content, a world's first. In theory, the technology enables mobile operators to offload peak audience content to a broadcasting network, such as spikes during an Olympic Games when mobile networks are overloaded.

Google Glass is being investigated too. Seligmann reckons wearable technology is "a significant catalyst for the future of online video" adding that "more than 600 clients use our solutions to publish video online and we intend to use Google Glass as a tool to record and immediately publish video on OVPs."

Arkena also spies an opportunity for Glass in the connected car market. With Mediamobile it is the leading operator of traffic information services for motorists in France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Poland. It's commercialised under the V-traffic brand with Volvo, Renault, BMW, GM, and Nissan among the automative firms it supplies.

"We see Google Glass as an interesting opportunity to make this information available in the connected car ecosystem. We're working on prototypes."

The company provides backhaul connectivity in support of major live events. These will include working directly for HBS, the technical broadcast services wing of FIFA, during this year's soccer World Cup.

It will manage the file transfers and onsite services for video contributed by HBS' roving news teams in Brazil. The video will be fed directly to the host broadcaster's EVS servers at the International Broadcast Centre in Rio.

As it did for FIFA in South Africa, it will also offer a domestic and international occasional use file transfer service as an alternative to traditional tape playout that rights holders can book.

A graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and of the Corps des Mines et Télécoms, Julien Seligmann began his career in 1994 in the international networks division of France Telecom. He was named director of TDF Group´s Media Services Division in 2011.

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